I’m not a big movie person. There are not many movies I’ve seen in a theater in the past 10 years, and only a few that I’ve seen on DVD.
Occasionally a film will come along that I think is worth seeing, and 42 is one of my favorites ever. No, not just because it’s a baseball movie. There is so much more to it than that.
Parts of the movie are hard to watch. I cannot tolerate the N-word. The scene in which the Philadelphia Phillies manager is screaming the word repeatedly as Robinson is at bat is difficult. As I watched that scene, I saw in my mind the faces of the African-American friends and colleagues that I love and respect. If it’s so tough for me to tolerate, what must it be like for them?
There is one scene that I find particularly poignant. A father and son are in the stands watching the game — much like I did with my dad at the old Busch Stadium. The son is clearly in awe of the experience and watches the game without prejudice. When Robinson comes up to bat his father and the other men around him begin to scream racist slurs. The little boy, following the example of the grownups, joins in, though I’d like to think he scarcely understands what he is saying.
I experienced a different version of this* last weekend at a Cardinals game. There was an adorable eight-year-old boy behind us. He was thrilled to be at Busch Stadium and in awe of his baseball heroes. He reminded me of my eight-year-old self and my dad.
The boy was with his mom and grandmother and some others who came later to the game, including a young man who was obviously a knowledgeable fan. I heard the boy comment on numerous players, both Cardinals and Milwaukee players — he clearly knew who was good and who was not.
At one point Ryan Braun came up to bat. Now, I have to say that there are very few baseball players I truly dislike, and Ryan Braun is at the top of that list. I cannot stand players who use performance-enhancing drugs, and Braun is back this year after spending much of 2013 on suspension for PED use.
So the boy is clearly in awe of Braun, “Oh, it’s Ryan Braun — he’s really good.” The man with them quickly corrected him — “No! Braun is a cheater! We don’t like him!”
A couple of innings later, Braun came up to bat again. This time the boy said, “Ryan Braun! We hate him!”
Both the movie and my experience at Busch Stadium brought home to me the power of suggestion, and the responsibility we have to model love and acceptance to those who look up to us.
Children aren’t born hating; they are taught. By us, the ones who lead them, to whom they look for direction and leadership. Our responsibility is to model love and equality for all, not pride and prejudice.
How are we doing? What do we teach those we lead about others who believe differently, are of another race, or have different abilities? Or, dare I say, disagree with us politically?
They’re watching. They see how we treat our brothers and sisters. They hear what we say, and they pick up on our attitudes, however subtle we think we are.
God does, too. Think about it.
Is He pleased with how you treat his other kids?
*I’m not unaware that there is a huge difference here — Braun clearly chose to use PEDs, and Robinson was hated only for the color of his skin. And in no way does Ryan Braun begin to compare to Robinson. But my point was merely how contagious hate can be, whatever the reason.
Photo Credit: “Jrobinson” by Photo by Bob Sandberg Look photographer – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ppmsc.00047.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.